With the blessing of the area’s PBS station, KCPT, filmmaker Michael Price has produced a 17-minute documentary on Kansas City’s rush to build a new terminal.
Titled “The KCI Affair: Triumph or Fiasco,” the documentary makes a dispassionately powerful case for B, “fiasco.” So compelling and so well produced is the short film that no undecided voter who sees it will want to vote “yes” in Tuesday’s election. It is that hard hitting.
At the outset Price explores fairly the pros and cons of a new terminal. What he focuses on, however, is the undeniably ugly process that led to the selection of Edgemoor to build a new terminal. Price interviews several dissenting city council members–Theresa Loar, Quinton Lucas, Lee Barnes, Jr.–who speak with surprising candor about the repeated corruption of the selection process. In the six-plus years he has held office, Mayor Sly James has never before faced this kind of scrutiny.
Nor is the KCPT exposé the only breach in the media monolith. The Kansas City Star has run a guest editorial by Kevin Koster, the founder of savekci.org and the “token opposition” on the mayor’s KCI task force.
Koster observes that he started his blog in 2013 “as much to oppose the lack of honesty coming from the city, and the lack of journalism coming from The Star, as it was to “save” my favorite airport — at the time one of the highest-rated airports in the country.”
Koster’s editorial spells out what Price’s KCPT documentary shows. Says Koster, “Most seasoned observers say that the KCI terminal issue may be the most mishandled public proposal in memory. It has everything: lies, exaggerations, distortions, secret meetings, no-bid proposals, do-overs, corruption accusations, legal threats and more.”
Although Koster acknowledges there are now legitimate reasons to reconfigure the airport, he asks, “whether the end justifies the means. How do we reconcile KCI’s terminal needs with the need for good government, policy and process?”
The net result of this rushed and potentially ruinous process is that voters are being asked to approve a proposal that is nowhere close to being finalized. Koster cites a Mayor James quote from just a year ago, “I think we are best served by pausing this conversation and focusing on our city’s other priorities.” At the time, only 40 percent of surveyed voters said they would vote for a new terminal, and the Star seemed to agree with the mayor.
Not much has changed in the last year save perhaps for the mayor’s growing need to see his name on the new airport. Based on the mayor’s performance during that time, his first name would seem to be name enough.